Date: January 8, 2023
Speaker: Russ Allen
Scripture: Galatians 4:21-5:1
Good morning. My name is Russ Allen. I’m the student ministries pastor here at West Shore. It’s always a privilege to be able to share God’s word with you. As Cindy said earlier, we’re going to be resuming our study in the book of Galatians. We took a little bit of a break during the Advent season, but I hope you’re ready to jump right back in. Before we get into our text for today, though, I thought it would be helpful to give you a very brief reintroduction to Galatians. So if you remember Galatians, is written by the Apostle Paul, to the churches in Galatia, which is modern day Asia Minor. Paul is concerned that the people who once received the good news have faith in Christ, for salvation, are being swayed by the Judaizers false teachers who have infiltrated the church and taught that Jews and Gentiles all need to observe the Old Testament law in order to be made right with God. Among these rules included circumcision, ritual cleanliness, and the observance of special holy days. So Paul goes to great lengths to show that justification, being made right with God has always, and will always be through faith in Jesus Christ. He says in chapter two, verse 16, yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. So we also have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law, no one will be justified. So this is the over arching, penetrating life changing message of Galatians. So it’s fitting that we resume our study by examining today’s text Galatians chapter four, beginning at verse 21. Continuing through chapter five, verse one, because it is in this text that Paul uses a powerful example, to illustrate his overarching point for the book. Now, in this text, Paul gives three Old Testament references that we are going to also be looking at today. So what I’ve done is on the back of your notes, I’ve included our main text from Galatians. So that when we look at the other passages, you can have both of them in front of you. So let’s first read Galatians chapter four, verses 21 through five one says, Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law, for it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman, and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically. These women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai bearing children for slavery, she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, she corresponds to the president Jerusalem for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, rejoice, oh barren woman who does not bear break forth and cry aloud you who are not in labor, for the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband. Now you brothers, like Isaac are children of promise. But just as at that time, he who was born according to the flesh, persecuted him who was born according to the spirit, so also it is now but what does the Scripture say? Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the Son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman. So brothers, we are not children of the slave, but of the free woman For freedom Christ has set us free, stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, my prayer, last service and this service is that you would use me as a magnifying glass. So that our people might be able to see through me to see you, in your word more clearly, Lord, help me to magnify you to clarify your word. We trust you, we love you. And we pray this in Jesus name, Amen.
So the title of today’s sermon is children of slavery or children of promise. The main point, the thing that I most want you to remember when you leave here today is that Christ has set us free from slavery under the law. Christ has set us free from slavery under the law. You can see that most explicitly from our text in chapter five verse one, not too many of us, the passage that we’re studying today is a confusing one. What is Paul talking about here? Why does he make the references that he does? See, Paul knows his immediate audience. The struggle in Galatia, as I mentioned, is over the role of Jewish law in the life of a Christian. Many Jewish people, particularly these Judaizers, had the idea that someone was made right with God and received his blessing, because they were a physical descendant of Abraham. Because they obeyed the Old Testament law, first given to Moses. Certainly there are many passages in the Old Testament about the Jewish nation, being God’s chosen people. Paul is saying that they are getting things wrong. Although God shows to us, the Jewish nation, and people being made right with God was never about physical dissent, or perfect obedience, but rather faith in God’s word, and God’s works. So as he had done earlier in the letter, what better way for Paul to prove his point than to go back to the Old Testament and back to Abraham himself. This is what Paul means in verse 21, when he asks, ironically, if the Galatians really do listen to the law. Now, the law was essentially the first five books of the Old Testament, the Torah. If the Galatians truly understood the law, they would understand that salvation does not come through it. Now, before we can fully grasp Paul’s point, we have to first comprehend the story that he’s referencing. That comes from Genesis, chapter 16, and Genesis chapter 21. So you can go ahead and turn there in your Bibles. So from the time that Galatians was written in about 40 ad, we’re going to now track back several 1000 years, to the time of Abraham, when he was still called Abram, and his wife Sarah was still called samurai. So God chose Abraham from all the people of the earth, not because there was anything special about him, but just because of grace. God tells Abraham that he is going to make him the father of a great group of people who would later become the Israelites, the Jewish nation. This ultimate blessing of a promised people and a promised land. This is nothing short of a return to the Garden of Eden. Now if this isn’t miraculous enough, we read that Abram and his wife Sariah are far too old to have children. Genesis 15 Six says that Abram believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness. This is righteousness, being made right with God and receiving his promised blessing for faith. Faith in God’s word, and God’s works to make happen what he promised but In the very next chapter, chapter 16, the story takes a turn. See a lot of time evidently passed between God’s promise to Abraham and the fulfillment of that promise.
Abram and his wife, Sariah start to lose faith and take matters into their own hands. Sariah convinces Abraham that it would would be good for him to sleep with her slave woman, Hager, that perhaps the sun he has with her would be the fulfillment of God’s promise. So in the same way that Adam listened to the sinful desire of Eve in the Garden of Eden, Abram listened to the sinful desire of Samurai, and he has a son with Hagar named Ishmael. But Ishmael was not the son of promise. He was a slave, like his mother. Now later, God does fulfill his promise by allowing Sariah to bear a son named Isaac. He is the son of promise. So that’s the setup. That’s the background. Now we’re going to fast forward again, to Galatians four. Paul takes this Old Testament story, and he brings out the deeper meaning and symbolism in it by explaining it as an allegory. Now, this takes a little bit of unpacking, because I do not want us to be led astray by miss applications. Paul’s use of the story as an allegory does not mean that the story isn’t true. It is real history. He does not deny that. This also does not mean that any biblical text can be interpreted allegorically allegory is the right interpretive application for this text, given the context, which we’ll examine in just a minute. Pause Paul’s interpretation is also not a commentary on interpersonal or civil morality. He neither condones nor condemns the character of Abram, Sariah and Hagar, and he neither condones nor condemns the use of slavery during that historical time period. Those things lie outside of Paul’s point and the main point of the story in Genesis. Instead, Paul sees the story as a historical object lesson for understanding the contrast between two things, righteousness through works, and Righteousness through faith, receiving the promise blessing through works, and receiving the promised blessing through faith. Look at Galatians four, verse 22. He says there are two sons, one by a slave woman, you can circle a slave and one by a free woman can circle free. So with the rest of our time today, we’re going to examine each of these ideas, son of the slave woman, children of slavery, and son of a free woman, children of promise. I think what we’ll find is that the historical object lesson from ancient times, not only applies to Paul’s context in Galatia, but also to ours as well. Paul says in verse 23, that the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, can underline that according to the flesh. Paul’s use of that phrase essentially means regarding the physical, rather than the spiritual. It is Paul’s way of telling the Judaizers in Galatia that just because you are one of Abraham’s physical descendants, like Ishmael was, this does not mean that you are a child of the promise, and we’ll receive God’s ultimate blessing. The spiritual identification, not the physical one is what truly matters This is why in verses 25 and 26, he makes the contrast between the physical Jerusalem and the Jerusalem above. That is the heavenly one, the spiritual one, the ultimate one. See, God promises us something far better than what we can achieve for ourselves and ultimate Jerusalem, an ultimate blessing that can only be found in him. ultimate joy, ultimate peace, ultimate satisfaction, not in us, or our actions at all, only through full reliance on him. When we try to insert ourselves into the process, we bring with us only our imperfect sinful flesh. We are in need of divine intervention, just like Abram and survivor. It’s interesting that when Paul uses the phrase, according to the flesh in his other letters, it almost always refers to sinful passion. I think this is intentional, because it is Paul’s way of saying that sinful passion. Salvation by works are really two sides of the same coin. They both are a rejection of faith in God, a rejection of full reliance on God. So are you relying on your own physical actions to give you what only God can truly provide? Now, as I mentioned, this could be through our sinful passions. I think of the woman at the well who went from one man to the next in search of the ultimate satisfaction, living water that God promises. But my guess is that for most of us, we look more like Martha, who was so concerned with physically working to earn Jesus favor, when what she really needed was to do nothing, and instead, sit at his feet. See Jesus plus nothing equals everything. When we trust in our flesh, we are removing our trust from God. We become slaves. Verses 24 through 25. Now this may be interpreted allegorically. These women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery, and circled children for slavery. She is Hagar. Now, Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia. She corresponds to the president Jerusalem for she is in slavery with her children. It’s interesting that whenever Genesis 16 and 21 mentioned Hager, she is almost always identified as Hagar the Egyptian woman. Early Jewish readers of that text would have immediately associated Egypt with slavery. So not only is she a slave, but she is a slave from Egypt. Such repetitive wording is why Paul rightly sees Hagar as representing slavery to the reader. In Genesis 21, it says that Hagar and her son Ishmael are required to leave Abraham and his family. Ishmael marries an Egyptian woman and lives in the wilderness of Paren. Paren is in the Sinai Peninsula, and is where the Israelites later received the law before entering the promised land. But Genesis 21 says that Ishmael and his mother were sent away and lived their Jewish readers like Paul would have understood the deeper meaning and disclosing that information. Here are slaves dwelling in the wilderness in the place of the law.
Unlike the later Israelites, they never enter the promised land. This is the message of Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 16 and 21. That Paul extrapolates in Galatians. For the story of Hagar, the Egyptian in chapter 16 falls right in between Abram being counted as righteous because of faith in chapter 15, and God commanding circumcision in chapter 17. The story is there in the middle, so that the readers do not get confused. Circumcision does not save obedience to the law does not save, it does not allow you to receive the ultimate blessing. It only results in slavery and wilderness. The covenant of curses and blessings made with Moses through the law in the wilderness is meant to show us that a better covenant is needed. A new covenant is needed. The result of you trying to earn God’s favor through your own actions is perpetual slavery. Because you will never be good enough. There will always be more that you can do more that you need to do. What you attain will never ultimately satisfy you. Like being in the wilderness, and never getting enough water. So you will keep striving and striving and striving and you will always question Am I good enough? See, I believe that there are some of you listening today who are there? You’re always asking, am I good enough? Am I doing enough? Can God really love me? It’s easy to fall into this, even without realizing it. Maybe you think that you need to improve yourself before you come back to church. Before you go to Bible study, or even before you pray, I once had a friend in college, who joked that he gets struck by lightning if you ever set foot inside a church that perhaps he had to become a better person first. Before he could be accepted by God. This was the case with the monk Martin Luther in the late 1400s Listen to a short excerpt from a popular biography says the medieval Catholic Church’s penal system led people to believe, though, that they could earn their way to heaven, and that they therefore must try as hard as possible to do so. Most people weren’t especially successful at it. But Martin Luther had entered the life of a monk precisely because he wished to be successful at it. So we prayed the monastic hours every day is every monk must do, rising extremely early and praying all through the day. He went to confession at every opportunity. So why did he feel he was making no progress? He confessed and confessed and yet he knew that if he was honest, there were always some bad thoughts that he had forgotten to confess. Or perhaps if he had been thorough in confession, he would have experienced a sinful pride over that thoroughness. Now he was obliged to confess the pride. The bottom line was that he knew he wasn’t getting anywhere and it was all torturing him. He doubted that he could ever be good, no matter how hard he tried, that he could ever be worthy of God’s grace, mercy and salvation. He knew that the life of a monk was designed to free one from temptation to keep on so busy with praying and singing and doing that there was no room for the sorts of things he might have been able to do if he had continued as a lawyer. But for Luther, the more he tried to be holy, the more he saw that he couldn’t be. If we’re honest with ourselves, this is us when we rely on our good works to earn God’s offer. admit blessing. We are slaves to our own good behavior. It produces no fruit in us. Like Sariah apart from God’s intervention, we are barren and can produce nothing. But Martin Luther later stumbled upon a truth from scripture that truly changed him rather than tirelessly reforming himself, this truth instead, reformed the church. Verses 26 through 28. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, rejoice, and circle rejoice. Oh, bear in one who does not bear, break fourth and cry aloud you who are not in labor, for the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband. Now you brothers, like Isaac, our children have promise. This passage that Paul quotes is fascinating, because it comes from Isaiah chapter 54. You can turn there if you have your Bible. When you read Isaiah 54 in context, we learned that the barren woman he’s talking about is not survive. It’s actually the remnant of Israel. All of God’s true followers, that they were scattered into desolate places because of their sin, but they are being reclaimed. Policies Sariah as symbolic of this. This is the ultimate blessing that will come through Sariah the blessing that the children of promise will inherit that despite our bearishness and inability to produce anything good, we will experience true fruitfulness. We will not stay in the wilderness. Listen to the end of Isaiah 54 starting at verse 10. Says for the mountains may depart, and the hills be removed. But my steadfast love shall not depart from you. My covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Oh afflicted one storm tossed and not comforted. Behold, I will set your stones and antimon and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacle’s of a gate, your gates of carbuncles and all your wall of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the Lord and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established. You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear and from terror for it shall not come near you. If anyone stirs up strife that is not from me. Whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you. Behold, I have created the Smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the Ravager to destroy, no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed. You shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness from me, declares the Lord. This is the ultimate blessing that was promised from the day of Abraham. This is the ultimate Promised Land. This is a return to Eden. This is heaven and the new earth. This is the deepest longing of every human heart. This is freedom. Paul declares that we are the children of promise that this inheritance is ours, despite any persecution that we will face, like he says in verses 29 and 30. But how how is this promise ours? How does he make fruitfulness out of barrenness? How does he make a city out of wilderness Do you know what comes right before? Isaiah 54 in chapter 53?
What is it that makes Isaiah 54 possible? Listen to the end of Isaiah 53 starting at verse 11, out of the anguish of his soul, he shall see and be satisfied by his knowledge shall the righteous one My servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will divide Him a portion with the many and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors. Yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. This is Jesus. He took the penalty that we deserved, so that we can be made right with God, accepted by God, and receive God’s ultimate blessing through faith in Him. This is the gospel message. This is Christianity. This is the new covenant of grace. Galatians 431. So brothers, we are not children of the slave, but of the free woman for freedom, Christ has set us free. Now as we come to the communion table, let this be a reminder that we can approach our Heavenly Father as beloved sons. Not because of our good works, or because we’ve cleaned ourselves up enough, gone to enough Bible studies, but only because of Christ’s broken body and poured out blood on our behalf. Does doesn’t matter how many good things you’ve done? Or how many bad things you’ve done if you turn to Him in faith? You are his and that is a very freeing thing.